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August 21, 2006

No Lip Service

While fishing off Malindi, Kenya, I caught this sailfish that we estimated at around 60 pounds on a trolled strip bait...

While fishing off Malindi, Kenya, I caught this sailfish that we estimated at around 60 pounds on a trolled strip bait. As soon as the fish was hooked, I knew something was wrong as it made no attempt whatsoever to run: The sail simply sat on its tail on the surface, shaking its head from side to side while attempting to dislodge the hook. When we brought it alongside the boat, we discovered that its lower bill was badly deformed, bent down at an almost-perfect 90-degree angle. Even though the fish had apparently sustained the injury long ago, it seemed to be very healthy and swam off strongly after we tagged it. I have caught and seen many billfish, especially sails, and apart from the odd broken bill here and there, I've never seen anything like this. How do you think it affected the fish's ability to feed?
- Dave Lewis
Newport, England

 



A: I have seen many deformed bills on billfish - on both the upper and lower jaws - and no one has ever proven that such deformities cause problems with feeding. In fact, you note that the fish appeared to be in good shape - very healthy - and from this I deduce that whatever the deformity, the fish was obviously able to feed without a problem.
- Eric Prince